Justice Committee approves extension of presumption against short sentences

Controversial plans to extend the presumption against short sentences have been approved by a majority of Holyrood’s Justice Committee.

The change was pushed through by seven votes to two, with Tory MSPs opposing the move.

Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell, who is convener of the Justice Committee, said: “I’m not convinced this is a sensible way forward to protect the public, and for that reason I’m not in favour of it.”

Ms Mitchell said that the offences covered by the plans could include housebreaking or causing death by careless driving.

She added: “By any stretch of the imagination these are very serious potential offences that will be covered by any presumption.”

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The individual sheriffs, the judges – they have the discretion on whether the seriousness of the offence merits a custodial sentence.”

He added: “We have to believe in people’s ability to rehabilitate. I have to believe that people have that ability, regardless of the crime – and, this is perhaps controversial, even those that have committed the most heinous of crimes.

“Now if I believe that, as I do, then I have to ask myself what does the evidence show me and demonstrate is the most effective way to rehabilitate somebody.

“Is it a short sentence – or is it a community alternative that addresses the root causes? It is undoubtedly community alternatives.”